Shop with a Cop
For the Cape Coral Police Department, it really is the most wonderful time of the year. For the kids, it’s a chance to take charge of the family Christmas shopping.
On Saturday at Walmart on Del Prado Boulevard, 38 kids from ages 7 to 18 met up with a police officer, armed with a gift card and a smile, and loaded up on Christmas presents for themselves and their families at the 15th annual “Shop with a Cop” event.
For many of these at-risk youth, it may be the only gifts given – or received – this holiday, and they were chosen from a list of more than 100 children due to their financial troubles at home.
For the police officers, it’s an opportunity to be a positive influence on the kids by showing themselves in a different light.
Philip Mullen, CCPD public affairs officer, said the department loves doing events such as this, as it’s a way to give back.
“We don’t always get to see the good. A lot of times on the road you see the worst of humanity, but this is the best,” Mullen said.
Police Chief Dave Newlan got a chance to connect with Jose Andrade, 10, of Patriot Elementary, and said he always looks forward to this event.
“We can give back to the community and help the kids get presents for the family and themselves,” Newlan said. “They get to ask us questions on what we do and why we wanted to be police officers. Next time they see us out, it’s personalized and they feel more comfortable.”
The day began at 8:30 a.m. with breakfast at McDonald’s, after which they went to Walmart for a group photo, to pet the K9 unit dogs and to spend nearly an hour of shopping. The kids had a list of presents to buy their siblings and parents, paid for with a gift card donated by Walmart.
All the kids were picked up and brought home by the police officers in their cruisers.
From there, it was onto the CCPD headquarters where they wrapped the presents, watched movies and ate pizza from I Ragazzi Pizza.
“We’ve sponsored this for eight years. We work on a lot of events like this and every year I donate my food to the kids. You can’t go wrong with pizza,” said Tim Luke, I Ragazzi owner.
About the time the kids left Walmart, the CCPD brought it’s “Fill the Boat” toy drive boat for people to drop off presents until 7 p.m.
For those who were not invited to shop with a cop, those kids were allowed to take some gifts from the boat to bring home. For those who were invited, the amount of gift cards they got depended on the size of their family. Some could get as much as $200 for gifts, said Joy Nyack, community outreach projects coordinator.
Those lucky ones who were picked said they were very thankful to have this opportunity.
“I’m blessed because I don’t get to do this every day and talk to cops and see how they work,” said Stephany Acosta, 18, who attends North Fort Myers High School. “Everyone is nice and they try to talk to you in a way you can understand. I was scared at first, but I got used to it.”
For Chloe Gates, 11, of Challenger Middle School, it was an opportunity to give to others who are less fortunate. She said she was going to take all the gifts she bought and put them in the boat.
Officer Ed Schilff said Chloe didn’t know what it was for when she filled out the application. When she learned about it, she asked if she could donate her gifts.
“My friends have money and a lot of people don’t have money to get anything for Christmas,” Gates said. “I try to help in any way I can.”